The Toyota Yaris is late to the mid-size sedan space in India. Thus, in a bid to give it an edge over its rivals, Toyota has given the Yaris a host of segment-unique features, like an electric driver's seat, roof-mounted aircon vents and gesture control for its touchscreen infotainment screen.
However, a welcome departure from the norm is the carmaker's sharp focus on safety. In addition to ABS and EBD, Toyota has opted to equip the Yaris with seven airbags (driver, passenger, two side, two curtain and knee), as standard right from the base variant.
Although most mass automakers in India have begun actively promoting passenger safety, they still don't have more than two airbags as standard on the base trims of their vehicles. The same goes for the key competitors of the Yaris – Hyundai Verna, Honda City and Maruti Ciaz.
The Japanese carmaker observed that for most car buyers, safety was not a top priority, up until recently. However, this trend is now changing, especially (and surprisingly) in the rural areas. "People are valuing safety as a basic parameter, not on the basis of price and are willing to pay for it," a senior Toyota official told Autocar India. "For instance, in rural India, the first question we are asked by a potential car buyer is how many airbags the vehicle has."
Apart from the seven airbags, the Yaris' base variant also comes with front parking sensors (a segment-first) as standard and with disc brakes on all four wheels (on the V and VX versions). Higher versions get ESP and traction control; and full-spec versions get a low tyre pressure warning system. Interestingly, the Yaris recently received five-star safety ratings from the New Car Assessment Program for Southeast Asian Countries (ASEAN NCAP). It will be interesting to see how the India car fares under the upcoming Bharat NCAP rating system.
Going ahead, Toyota plans to offer the maximum airbags standard across other models in its line-up; including the Corolla and the Innova Crysta – both of which currently come with three airbags as standard in their base versions. "When there is a model refreshment (for the other vehicles), safety will be prioritised. Not just airbags, but the entire gamut of safety features will be updated," the senior Toyota official added.
While the Yaris spearheads Toyota's aim to offer the highest level of safety in its cars in India, it is not the first time the Japanese manufacturer has actively promoted safety. The automaker was the first one to standardise front dual airbags across all its models, with the launch of the Toyota Etios in 2015. Furthermore, ABS and EBD were standardised for all its models with the launch of the Etios Platinum in September 2016. The India-spec Etios also got a commendable 4 star rating when crash tested by Global NCAP.
Could Toyota’s focus on safety be the key differentiator for the Yaris in India? You can bet Toyota’s rivals are just as keen to know the answer to that question.
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